UN launches public sector women’s leadership ranking

By on 06/12/2017
The United Nations Development Programme is based in One UN Plaza at the United Nations Headquarters in New York (Image courtesy: Neptuul).

Scandinavian countries have taken the top three spots in a new global league table of women’s leadership across the public sector.

In the Global Women Leadership Initiative Index, Sweden was placed first with a score of 69.65; Finland came second, scoring 65.82; and Norway was third, notching up 65.76. They were closely followed by Canada on 65.57, and Slovenia on 61.39.

The annual ranking was jointly developed by the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Centre’s Women in Public Service Project and the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Equality in Public Administration initiative.

Launched at the UNDP’s headquarters in New York on Tuesday 28 November, it aims to underline “glaring deficits and meaningful gains” in gender parity within public service leadership worldwide and thereby accelerate women’s progression into senior posts.

The meaning of metrics

Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, said data on gender is “critical” for all organisations working to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals for 2030.

The absence of data impedes transparency and accountability and, even with the best intentions, makes evidence-based policy-making very difficult and restricts effective advocacy for change, she said.

The league table includes a wide range of data from the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, as well as the civil service and security services. It joins a handful of existing international metrics on women’s progress into leadership positions across the public sector, including Global Government Forum’s own Women Leaders Index – which sets out the gender splits among senior civil servants, legislators, ministers and business leaders within the G20 countries. Presented along with comment, analysis and case studies, Global Government Forum’s Index is an annual ranking published since 2013.

Different strokes

UNDP’s metrics are restricted to public sector roles, but cover the vertical range from national government to local councils. Countries are scored on statistics aggregated under the headings “pathways”, “positions” and “power”, respectively involving measures relating to access to leadership roles, women’s representation in senior positions, and public attitudes to gender and power.

Gwen K. Young, director of the Women in Public Service Project, said: “The leadership index tells us where we are today: the pathways women take to leadership, the positions they hold, and the power they have once they get there.

The data, she added, “also tells us where we need to go by identifying barriers to leadership as well as critical gaps in the data that must be addressed to accelerate global progress toward parity.”

The analysis found that, worldwide, the civil service has the highest average proportion of women in leadership positions of any element of the public sector ­– at 29.7%.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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